KY Gov. Acts To Enhance Mine Safety

Frankfort, KY (CompNewsNetwork) - Gov. Steve Beshear today announced that he has approved an increase in the number of mine inspectors and the number of mining permit reviewers in the Energy and Environment Cabinet. Speaking with miners and local officials at three stops in eastern Kentucky today, the Governor said making sure Kentucky coal miners are safe must be a priority.

“The addition of 15 mine inspectors in the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing will not only help with our efforts to complete the number of required inspections, but will also enhance our nationally recognized mine rescue team capabilities and response,” said Gov. Beshear.

The added positions mean Kentucky will have the necessary inspectors to meet mandated mine safety inspections. In addition, the inspectors will serve as members of the state's mine rescue teams that provide coverage in six districts from six fully equipped mine rescue stations.

Resolutions passed by the Floyd and Martin counties' fiscal courts enable the 15 safety inspectors, who perform both safety inspections and mine rescue, to be funded through the Multi-County Local Government Economic Development Fund through Memoranda of Agreement among the Department for Local Government, Energy and Environment Cabinet and Floyd County.

“This use of multi-county funds is a way in which we can provide another level of safety to our local miners and assist the companies that employ our people,” Letcher County Judge Executive Jim Ward said. “It is an appropriate expenditure of the funding we receive from the work of those same coal miners that we want to help protect.”

“There are very few things more important to the people of Pike and surrounding counties than the safety of our coal miners and the purpose of these funds – the Mine Safety Teams Project – will promote just that,” said Wayne T. Rutherford, Pike County Judge-Executive.

Gov. Beshear has also signed an emergency regulation that allows for assessments on new mine permit applications. The additional funding is expected to raise an estimated $800,000 with an equal federal match that will be used to pay for 19 additional employees in the Division of Mine Permits.

“I am grateful that the Governor has worked to help the coal industry, especially since it seems of late that the EPA and Corps have had the whole industry under attack,” said Rep. W. Keith Hall, of Phelps, co-chair of the Energy Committee of the Kentucky General Assembly. “I have always worked to promote cooperation between federal and state agencies so that a productive, safe, and environmentally sound, yet vibrant coal industry can be achieved in Kentucky.”

Due to budget cuts and retirements in 2008, the division has experienced some difficulty reviewing permit applications in a timely manner. The division will also be assuming additional duties in the review of cumulative hydrologic impacts and fill minimization. The additional positions will enable the division to meet regulatory timeframes and fulfill the new duties.

“It is critical to the economic well-being of Kentucky that we move quickly to properly review and approve those mine permits that meet statutory requirements,” said Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters. “The addition of these positions is an important step in protecting one of our greatest economic assets.”

Gov. Beshear also signed a proclamation declaring November as Coal Appreciation Month in Kentucky.

In noting the importance of coal and coal miners to the Commonwealth, Gov. Beshear said, “Coal miners are hard-working, dedicated, and loyal Kentuckians who work to provide for their families. Coal miners are a vital asset to the Commonwealth, not only as laborers but as devoted citizens, because they are known to stay in the state and economically support their communities, education programs and their respective counties.”

“Coal puts food on the table and money in the pockets of thousands of Kentucky families,” said Rep. Richard Henderson, of Jeffersonville. “As responsible public officials, we should be looking for ways to enhance coal's role in our Commonwealth and devoting more effort to creating jobs.”

“I commend the Governor for his work to help the coal industry.  This is the way of life and the livelihood of the people of Eastern Kentucky,” said Rep. Ancel “Hardrock” Smith, of Leburn. “As a 27-year veteran of coal mining and being accident-free, I know firsthand what it means to have good safety measures, especially since the coal mining industry is under attack.  Prevention of health-related illnesses and hazards is a priority to keep miners working and safe on the job.”

“As a legislator from the coal region, I am grateful to Governor Beshear for taking this initiative to help the coal industry and am always thankful for coal safety measures,” said Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, of Drift. “I appreciate that he has taken steps to make it possible to review and expedite mine permits more quickly to and keep Kentucky's signature industry producing.”

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